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ALERT! HIV drug tenofovir increases risk of kidney damage

SAN FRANCISCO -- Patients who take one of the most widely prescribed drugs to treat HIV infection increase their risk of kidney damage by up to 34% every year they take the medication, according to a study of more than 10,000 HIV-positive veterans.

The study, by the San Francisco VA Medical Center and published online earlier this month, is one of the largest to address the long-term risk of tenofovir, an antiretroviral drug that is taken daily, usually in a single pill combined with other drugs.

Doctors have long known that antiretroviral drugs carried some risk of kidney damage, but how much -- and whether that damage is caused by a particular drug or combination of drugs, or by the HIV infection itself -- has been the source of much debate.

And it's a debate that is likely to become more heated. For many HIV-infected patients, the benefits of taking tenofovir and preventing full-blown AIDS will far outweigh the risk of long-term kidney damage. But some public health experts have begun to promote the drug for healthy individuals after recent research showed that tenofovir could prevent HIV infection.

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